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MEMO/12/31

Brussels, 23 January 2012

Q&A on EU relations with its Overseas Countries and Territories

From 24 – 26 January 2012, EU Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs, will host the annual EU – Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) Forum in Brussels. Premiers and elected representatives from the Overseas Countries and Territories, Mrs Marie-Luce Penchard, Member of the French Government in charge of Overseas Countries and Territories and officials from the United Kingdom, Denmark, and the Netherlands, together with members of the European Parliament, will attend.

What are OCTs?

The OCTs are 25 countries and territories - mainly small islands – outside mainland Europe, which have constitutional ties with one of the following Member States: Denmark, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Although their nationals are in principle EU citizens, these territories are not part of the EU and not directly subject to EU law.

They have a special "associate" status, designed to help their economic and social development.

Why do the OCTs have a different status?

There are significant differences between the OCTs themselves in terms of their degree of autonomy from the Member States, to which they are linked, but also in economic and social areas, and with regard to their geographical characteristics and climate.

However, they do share common characteristics: none of them is a sovereign country, all are parliamentary democracies, all are islands, the size of their populations is very small and their ecological richness is extraordinary compared to continental Europe. They are all relatively vulnerable to external shocks and are in general dependent on a narrow economic base that mostly revolves around services. The OCTs are also facing many challenges such as: remoteness, vulnerability to economic shocks and climate change, difficulties to build and maintain infrastructure, or sustainable energy supply.

Which OCTs receive funding from the European Commission?

  • Anguilla (UK)

  • Aruba (NL)

  • Bonaire (NL)

  • Curação (NL)*

  • Falkland Islands (UK)

  • French Polynesia (FR)

  • Greenland (DK)

  • Mayotte (FR)

  • Montserrat (UK)

  • New Caledonia and Dependencies (FR)

  • Pitcairn (UK)

  • Saba (NL)*

  • Sint Eustatius (NL)*

  • Sint Maarten (NL)*

  • Saint Helena, Ascension Island, Tristan da Cunha (UK)

  • St. Pierre et Miquelon (FR)

  • Turks and Caicos Islands (UK)

  • Wallis and Futuna Islands (FR)

(*) Curação, Sint Maarten, Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius were formerly the Netherlands Antilles.

What is the annual OCT-EU Forum? What will be on the agenda?

The EU, the OCTs and the Member States to which they are linked are engaged in a broad-based dialogue in which they discuss the principles, detailed procedures and results of the association. The EU-OCT Forum is the annual event that facilitates this dialogue.

This event marks the 10th anniversary of the EU-OCT Forum. The first day of the Forum will take place under the heading "EU-OCT Partnership – Future Relations", which will be an opportunity to discuss the future Association Decision (this decision draws up a framework in order to promote economic and social development and to establish close economic relations between them and the EC as a whole).

The second day will be dedicated to the state of play of implementation and programming of the 9th and 10th EDF in the OCTs. A roundtable on regional cooperation will also take place.

What form do EU-OCT relations take?

OCTs benefit from agreements in many fields, such as:

  • trade – favourable rules of origin and advantageous trade arrangements

  • sustainable development – through greener production and trade, human/social development, cultural and social cooperation

  • regional cooperation/integration – improvement of a free movement of people, goods, services, work and technologies, liberalisation of transfers/payments and sectoral reforms.

Furthermore, there is a constant dialogue between the partners, through:

  • the annual OCT-EU forum (Commission, all OCTs and all the Member States to which they are linked)

  • regular trilateral meetings (Commission, all OCTs and the Member States to which they are linked), and

  • partnership meetings (Commission, individual OCT and related Member State).

Examples of projects in the OCTs

Rehabilitation projects in the Pacific

The 10th European Development Fund (EDF) helped to finance two rehabilitation projects after the destruction of public infrastructure by cyclones:

  • An amount of €1,076,400 was delivered in order to rebuild five of the six schools of the island of Futuna that were damaged by cyclone Tomas in March 2010,

  • In French Polynesia, the EDF financed the reconstruction of the only road infrastructure of the east coast of Tahiti, which was destroyed by cyclone Oli in February 2010.

Vocational training in New Caledonia

Under the 10th EDF, the EU funds a vocational training programme in New Caledonia (€19.81 million). The objective of the program is the promotion of local employment, social progress and economic readjustment between the three provinces of this OCT.

Investment in social and physical infrastructure in Saint-Helena, Ascension Island and Tristan Da Cunha

The objective of the budget sector programme (€16.63 million), agreed with Saint-Helena, Ascension Island and Tristan Da Cunha, is to contribute to sustainable economic development on all three islands. The specific objective of this programme is to contribute to enhancing the nature and quality of the social and physical infrastructure present on all three islands by (i) providing all customers with adequate levels of service, (ii) improving asset management, and (iii) reducing risks to the health and safety of the end-users on the Islands resulting from dilapidated or inadequate infrastructure.

What is the EU financial support to OCTs?

The EU provides financial support for OCT's development strategies.

Total EU funding for OCTs for 2007-2013 is €286 million, through the European Development Fund (EDF):

  • €195 million for special programmes

  • €40 million for regional cooperation and integration;

  • €30 million to finance the European Investment Bank investment facility for OCTs (this amount is on top of loans worth €30 million made from the Bank's own resources);

  • €6 million for technical assistance;

  • €15 million for emergency help.

The OCTs are also eligible for funding under European programmes (e.g. research, education and training, innovation and competitiveness, culture and media.).

Greenland is not eligible for EDF funds but receives €25 million per year from the General budget of the EU on the basis of the Partnership Agreement between the EU, Denmark and Greenland, which also covers the period from 2007-2013.


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